T Nation

Training Too Far From Failure?

So I’ve come to the conclusion that I’ve been training too far from failure these last couple years. Recorded a set of squats today which ended up being a rep pr at 14x275. I felt it was fairly challenging but after watching the vid I think I had several reps left in the tank.

Just want to turn to the forum hive mind to see if this is close enough to failure or not. The reps slowed down a bit and form started to change but I think there was a decent chunk left in the tank.

It’s all going to depend on what you’re trying to achieve. I mean, by the speed and position you probably could have gotten two or three more. I would definitely have stopped the set when you did, and quite possibly earlier because I generally call it when I start to slow down if it’s an AMRAP set.

Hell, some people get good results never really approaching failure. Some people get good results going as close to failure as they can. The common denominator shared by these results generating people is that they work hard all the time.

I think if you’re going to draw a line between when to push closer to failure and when to keep fairly distant from it, do it by whether you’re looking to primarily get stronger or primarily get bigger (of course they aren’t at all mutually exclusive). If you’re looking to mostly get stronger, you’ll probably be well served to steer relatively clear of failure while still making sure you do plenty of hard work. If you’re mostly looking to get bigger, you’ll probably do well to stay pretty close to failure although it isn’t essential provided you do enough hard work.

I tend to sit between the two. Because I compete in powerlifting, the last thing I want to do is get even vaguely accustomed to failing any main or supplemental lifts. Firstly, it’s a bad habit that can impact performance in meet and second, it places an unsustainable burden on recovery. On assistance work I’ll definitely approach failure quite regularly, because it doesn’t impact recovery as much and because those exercises don’t even remotely resemble my competition exercises. I don’t intend to approach failure, but if a set takes me there I go along with it.

3 Likes

I’ve found the first half of this to be true, relatively high number of sets far-ish from failure has given me consistent strength gains the last few years. I feel my physique hasn’t changed much though so that’s the focus right now. It’s an adjustment and I’m trying to figure out when to end a set.

I think I’m mostly struggling with the balance of how much form break down is acceptable. I’m good at grinding reps but concerned that might be just adding fatigue without hitting target muscles. Judging from this vid though, and with hypertrophy being the goal, I can probably afford to push a little harder. Bit of a learning process

I think that for reps maybe you could get close/closer, but as you (anybody) get into near max weight risk of injury goes through the roof.

It just always seemed to me that failing in higher rep ranges was just muscular exhaustion, but near max failure resulted in muscle tears, dislocation, and joint surface problems.

1 Like

This is a very good point. If you’re going to be approaching failure, it would probably be best to never go past around 80%.

I woulda pushed that set for a few more reps. Your final rep is basically the point in the set where I’m like “ok, here’s the real work”

But I’m also not very smart…

2 Likes

How close do you feel that you was near to form brake down?

I felt like somewhere around rep 10 my hips started to shoot up a bit and I had more forward lean but it doesn’t look too bad on vid. I probably had another 3-5 before I was doing full on good morning squats.

It is kinda hard for me to say though as I don’t record the high rep stuff often so the vid looks a bit different than what I thought it felt like.

1 Like

My advice or what its worth… base it on form failure. Once you cross that line your done.

4 Likes

I rarely go to failure on squats, but I get close; there are plenty of other, safer, leg exercises to fail on. If, like me, you’re focusing on quad development/hypertrophy then when you get closer to failure your mind shifts from contracting the muscle to getting the weight up and you lose what should be the point of the lift. One major difference between my squats and yours is that I don’t lock out on the top between reps if I can avoid it to keep tension on the quads; chances are you wouldn’t be as able to get as many reps with less rest between them.

1 Like

Having failed a few times on squats myself, what are the risks to safety?

The risk of knowing your ego is no longer safe because you had to dump the bar and make a loud noise attracting the attention of all the other gym goers who, without a doubt, are judging you for being such a failure

Not speaking from personal experience or anything

3 Likes

If I was doing multiple sets of this weight then this is where I would stop - perhaps one less if it was many sets.

If I was ramping to a top set, I’d have probably eeked out a bit more.

I think it kind of depends on if you are using a power rack/squat rack with weight catchers, or just using those upright squat stands. In a power rack? Meh, fall all you want. Just don’t throw your hands out when you do it, otherwise you can crush a hand between the barbell and the spotter bar (kid did it in high school football, broke a pinky. Not a huge injury but still.) if you just have the upright squat stands? Idk, I could see falling forward with nothing to catch the bar ending pretty badly.

Of course tons of guys do it, you see those Chinese weightlifters all the time just drop the bar backwards. But for a guy like me with a more forward lean to my squat? I could totally imagine getting pinned under the bar.

I usually end up dumping the bar overhead when it happens. Not great for the equipment, but that’s about it.

Hmm, yeah I suppose that would work. Sounds a little dicey but I’ve never done it, so I can’t comment.

Also willing to confess that I’m not willing to go purposely fail a set of squats outside of a power rack just to test this maneuver haha

I have only dumped a bar once…because the catches were set too low. Dumped from behind and the new bars knurling skinned me going down my back.

I’ve failed squats plenty of times but always in the 1-3 rep range. I hit squats again Tuesday and will take a cue from @T3hPwnisher and start the real work when I hit that first slow rep. Right now I don’t think I can trust how I feel regarding form breakdown so I’ll just push hard and check the video later.

As far as what others have said, this might be close to the sweet spot for some high volume but I only did 3 total sets at this weight, 2x12 prior to this set of 14. Guess I gotta man up a bit

I also like to pause between reps to make sure I’m still bracing, I think muscling straight through when tired could get ugly but I understand the appeal of a constant tempo, just don’t think it’s for me

2 Likes

Similar to what @strongmangoals said: if this was a first set it wouldn’t be bad at all. For final or topset, then I would push it.

I have never failed a squat… Now and again, I’ll start my bottom up squat from the the j-cups.

2 Likes